FUMBLERULES -- BOOKRING

by William Safire | Reference |
ISBN: 0385413017 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingAntof9wing of Lakewood, Colorado USA on 3/31/2004
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10 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingAntof9wing from Lakewood, Colorado USA on Wednesday, March 31, 2004
One of my all-time favorite books on the English language. Right up there with Patricia T. O'Conner's "Woe Is I".

I believe this book is out of print.

From the back of the book, some of the "fumblerules":
1. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.
2. Eschew dialect, irregardless.
3. Never use prepositions to end sentences with.
4. Don't use no double negatives.
5. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

Registering this as part of the RACE TO A MILLION Challenge.

I love Mr. Safire's entertaining approach to a usually dull topic. One example of this: "This book is written in a studiously informal style in a frantic effort to help the medicine go down. I'll do linguistic nip-ups, crack wise and prestidigitate mightily to slip in a little painless pedagogy."

In the chapter "Don't verb nouns" (a rule most people in 2004 are unfamiliar with), he begins: "Verbification -- using a noun like input or access as a verb, or transforming priority into prioritize -- is all the rage with bureaucratizers. (That's a new noun, back-formed from the verb bureacratize, meaning "to make seem official," back-formed from the noun bureaucrat. I just made it up, to show how easy and silly this practice can be. . . ."

And the chapter that prompted the BookRing -- "Never use prepositions to end sentences with", contains the famous Winston Churchill quote when a " . . .copy editor dared to apply this rule to his immortal prose: 'This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put!'"

Special note to my friends "over the pond" -- many of Mr. Safire's references are to American expressions, things, Presidents, etc. Obviously, he is discussing English first, but I'd add that it is biased toward American English. I hope you still enjoy it, and can laugh at some of the funny quotes made by our own (past) presidents. I believe anyone who loves words, wordsmithing, grammar, or any combination of the above will find this an enjoyable read.

Journal Entry 2 by wingAntof9wing from Lakewood, Colorado USA on Monday, April 19, 2004
This stalled ring revived by the generous BlueAmazon! Click here for the new book

BookRing Members:
labmomnm -- New Mexico/US
quimbi -- Germany/EU
quizgirl --England/UK
miketrollstigen -- Wales/UK
countedx58 -- California/US
deenbat -- New Hampshire/US
bookczuk -- South Carolina/US
wyldanthem -- Virginia/US
MarciNYC -- New Jersey/US
TaterTotsMother (dorks rule!) -- Michigan/US was mailed to TTM
BlueAmazon (she has a copy of "Eats Shoots and Leaves" she's thinking of ringing) -- California/US
mlbish (Word Nerds of the World -- Unite!) -- Illinois/US
newk (a late entry, cause we love him, and here's part of his PM to me: "pretty please can I still fit in. I plead limited internet access for late request.") -- Australia
FriarTuck -- England/UK the new book is here
Metropolitan (I’m scared that I can’t think what abbreviation should go after “Brazil”) -- Brazil
Joanthro (you'll smile at her opening paragraph and pic on her profile) -- Colorado/US
Antof9 -- a Colorado hand-off?!
jessibud -- Ontario/Canada
Antof9 -- Colorado/US

Please PM me if I've left anyone off or made a mistake on who is willing to ship internationally (thanks for that, by the way -- we had more than enough willing shippers!) Please note: I'm giving out grammar/typo waivers on the journal entries! Just 'cause we're all interested in reading and laughing about this stuff doesn't mean we all write perfectly!

Last: if you become unable to participate in the Ring, or become unable to pay for the postage to the next "ringer", please PM me. Thanks! :)

Journal Entry 3 by winglabmomnmwing from Albuquerque, New Mexico USA on Sunday, April 25, 2004
Received by mail from Antof9 - already started reading. Had you ever thought of semicolons as the Cleopatras of the grammar world?! Now I see Liz Taylor every time I hit a semicolon...oy!

5/3/04 update - mailed to quimbi

Journal Entry 4 by quimbi from Mainz, Rheinland-Pfalz Germany on Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Yeah ya guys, just unmailboxed this very-nice-looking-and-appearing book that I was from America sent to and surely was enjoyed by them there reading it before and that I probably won't be able to say no goodbye to. Foshizzl a real grammardork book, ey? ;-)

*lol* ok, more of that when I'm done reading! Labmomnm, thank you for sending me this nice book that already made me laugh so much before I started it. And thanks for starting this beautiful dorkish bookring Antof9!!! (Colorado is one nice place :-))

Journal Entry 5 by quimbi from Mainz, Rheinland-Pfalz Germany on Saturday, May 15, 2004
"[...]Welcome to the world of euphemism, where the national flower is a figleaf and the refusal to use painful words has not passed away[...]"

William Safire(Is that a spelling mistake? shouldn't it be a t instead of an f?)is definately not afraid to say what he thinks about the common use of language. He critizises the pedants as well as "the lazy reader" in a really funny way.
Although I had trouble to understand all of it and was fighting with the dictionary more than one time, the book made me laugh a lot. There are a lot more parallels to other languages than I thought. There's a lot of truth in what Safire says, but some things confused me; maybe I just didn't get the point there, though. It also seems that he doesn't always believe in his own rules when he says we shouldn't take it too serious.
One thing is hard to face, although it gives some kind of freedom:
"You think you speak English? Get off it, man; what you speak is your idiolect - that amalgam of Standart English, local pronounciation, personal idiosyncrasy and down-home regional dialect unique to you"
How can one become a perfect English speaker then? *sniffles with his dream becoming a pipedream, wink*

Journal Entry 6 by quimbi at post office in Burladingen, Germany -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Released on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 at post office in Burladingen, Germany Controlled Releases.

sent to quizgirl today. I hope it gets to England safe! Enjoy reading, it's fun!!!(yees, I know, but hey, I had to emphasize this somehow *g*)

Journal Entry 7 by quizgirl from Chesterfield, Derbyshire United Kingdom on Thursday, May 27, 2004
Would you believe it? I came home from my job proofreading a local magazine to find this had arrived. Just reading the dust cover had me in stitches. I love 'Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do' and 'Don't use no double negatives'.
BTW, I hope you all realise how hard it is for me to write this, having confessed to being a (part time) proofreader! I daren't make any mistakes.
I'd never live it down!

To the top of my TBR pile!

Journal Entry 8 by quizgirl from Chesterfield, Derbyshire United Kingdom on Wednesday, June 16, 2004
I love this book so much I am going to get my own copy from amazon.
Safire has a very amusing way of showing how the language should be written.

Thanks to Antof9.

On its way to miketrollstigen.

Journal Entry 9 by wingmiketrollwing on Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Elegant, lively, witty short essays on common themes of grammatical usage. A fun read for anyone interested in language.

Read it right through in no time at all. Will get my own copy, if it's in print.

On it's way soon to countedX58 in California.

Journal Entry 10 by wingmiketrollwing on Thursday, July 08, 2004
Mailed on to countedx58 in San Francisco on 8 July 2004. Sorry about the unavoidable delay in posting.

Journal Entry 11 by countedx58 from San Francisco, California USA on Monday, July 12, 2004
Just received this from miketrollstigen - I'll start reading it either tomorrow or the next day (as soon as I'm done with the current book) and then get it on its way to deenbat!

Journal Entry 12 by countedx58 from San Francisco, California USA on Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Loved it! Safire is a gem. I looked on Amazon and found that he's written lots more of these books (mostly collections of his weekly column, I think). I'm going to add them to my wish list!

Here are my two favorite passages:

"The U.S. Embassy in Budapest used to hand each arriving diplomat a packet that included this warning: 'It must be assumed that available casual indigenous female companions work for or cooperate with the Hungarian government security establishment.' It would have been better for our counterintelligence efforts if somebody had said, 'The local whores are spies.'"

"Americans put the comma and the period inside quotation marks; the British put them outside. We use double marks to enclose the primary quotation and single marks to indicate quotations within quotations, while the British do precisely the opposite. That's because they're foreigners."

I'll be mailing this out to deenbat tomorrow. :)

PS: miketrollstigen, take a look at the last sentence of your Journal Entry 9 and tell me what's wrong with it! LOL

Journal Entry 13 by countedx58 from San Francisco, California USA on Wednesday, July 14, 2004
On its way to Deenbat today via media mail.

Journal Entry 14 by deenbat from Carlisle, Pennsylvania USA on Saturday, July 17, 2004
received in the mail from countedx58 & skimmed a bit - looks like fun! will probably read parts aloud to MrBat as well...

Journal Entry 15 by wingbookczukwing from Charleston, South Carolina USA on Thursday, July 29, 2004
This is bookczuk cutting ahead in line (with Auntie's permission- but oh! where to place the period- before or after the parentheses close?) A friend sent me my own copy of this book. Thus, I forfeit posession of the actual book in the ring, but not my right to write a note. After Deenbat, the book shall skip me and go on to the next ringer. Now that I have made all grammarians cringe, let me tell you my tale.

In the early 70's I was a counselor at a camp for girls. The camp was located in West Virginia. As a result of the close location to Washington DC, we had many campers who had parents that were "somebody"- a Senator's (later Vice President's) daughter, an ambassador's daughter, and I'm sure we even had daughters of CIA operatives (though we probably thought the parents owned a dry cleaners or something.)

One such girl was a diminuitive, blue-eyed, dark haired, fair skinned child, who told us in no uncertain terms that her name was "Annabel Abigail Victoria Pennina Safire". How can you argue with that? When you would ask her if she had enough juice at breakfast, she would tell us, "I have a quantity sufficient." When other children would protest a counselor edict (i.e. "Lights out, NOW!") by whimpering "That's unfair!", Annabel would murmur "that's inequitable."

When Annabel's parents came up for visiting day, they brought the counselors a large picnic basket of goodies. It was only after they returned from DC, and I asked the camp director for their address to send a thank you (Yes, my mother raised me right in terms of manners, though she failed miserably in my grammer, spelling and typing), that I realized the affable father of this child with the offbeat locution was THE William Safire. You never saw anyone rip open an envelope so fast to double check what she had written in a letter.

So now, I shall read my copy of the book and Deenbat shall read the one in her possession, and we both shall have a grand time.

The picture here is of my grammar school- Oakview Elementary in Silver Spring, Maryland. That was eons ago, though. I've heard that now it is an ESL school. Maybe it was, inadvertently, one back in my day, which would explain my poor grasp of my native language.

Journal Entry 16 by deenbat from Carlisle, Pennsylvania USA on Wednesday, August 04, 2004
what a fun book! MrBat and i took it to Cooperstown, NY with us for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and read parts of it out loud to each other.

Among our favorite bits were: "No, that's folk etymology, and the folk are always wrong" from chapter 17.
"Now and then, however, it is considered advisable to use the passive when the need presents itself to crawl under the desk" from chapter 24.
Lots of others, of course - too many to list - and don't want to spoil the fun for the rest of the list!!
Thaks for sharing, Ant!!

mailing tomorrow (8/5/04) to wyldanthem, a day later than promised...

Journal Entry 17 by wyldanthem from Lancaster, Pennsylvania USA on Thursday, August 26, 2004
Thanks, deenbat! This actually arrived a while ago, but I was on vacation in Vermont and upstate New York (I was in Cooperstown 8/10! It could've visited the Baseball Hall of Fame twice! :o) ). Thanks for the 'ring, and the postcard, Ant-of-9! This will be a quick read, so I'll journal again soon.

-- Wyld, the adorkable.

Journal Entry 18 by wyldanthem from Lancaster, Pennsylvania USA on Saturday, September 11, 2004
I'm defintely going to have to hunt down a copy of this book to add to my personal collection of wordsmiths' works. I keep a shelf of useful guides and grammatical books for editors in my office, and this would make a nice addition to that collection.

In an average day, my coworkers and I encounter all the mistakes Safire addresses. The funniest one I encountered last week applies to the fumblerule "Proofread carefully to see if you any words out": "In edition [sic], the House version of the FY 2005 Defense Bill phase out the age-62 benefit reduction over 3 1/2 years."

Thanks again, Antof9, for the 'ring!

Journal Entry 19 by wyldanthem from Lancaster, Pennsylvania USA on Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Oops! Sorry, forgot to let you all know that this book is on its way to MarciNYC New Jersey -- happy reading! :o)

Destination Confirmation Number:
0303 3430 0001 0866 6919

Journal Entry 20 by MarciNYC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA on Thursday, September 30, 2004
Okay - I am a total AIRHEAD. I had no clue this book was en route to Chez Schwartz. When I opened the envelope today, I was suprised (but pleasantly)! As a pseudo (pronounced "suede-oh" in this household for reasons which will remain classified) grammar-Nazi on the job, I think I will certainly enjoy this book. I will be PMing the next person on line for the book to get their address as I think I can turn this around over the weekend.

(Hmmm - how many glaring grammatical errors have I made in the above statement?) Thanks Antof9 for sending this out. I'm enjoying the postcards of Colorado.

Journal Entry 21 by MarciNYC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA on Friday, October 08, 2004
Sorry, it took me a little longer than planned to get through this short book. That said, I am ready to mail it out today, but I've misplaced the postcards that were with it. I've nearly torn my house apart this morning trying to remember WHERE I left them with no luck. *bangs head on desk* They WILL turn up when I'm less stressed, so I am going to head out and join my fellow jurors to deliberate our case and come home and find them in an obvious place.

I enjoyed the book immensely and recognised several faux pas that I tend to make. (Can we say I'm a little exclamation point happy? No more.) I think the segment I liked best was the split infinitive - I used to go round and round with an old boss on that. Yes, he was a pedant. Anyhow, I must head out to jury duty and when I come home this will be heading out to Michigan to the next reader.

Thanks Ant for sharing this. I had a good laugh while at the same time some of the old rules of grammar usage were reinforced.

Journal Entry 22 by wingAntof9wing from Lakewood, Colorado USA on Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Unfortunately, my friends, I fear this book has gone astray. We don't know if TaterTotsMother actually received it or not, but we do know that MarciNYC mailed it to her. Hopefully she's doing ok, and it will re-surface eventually. I'd love to see it again -- even if it's gone travelling for quite a while!

Anyway, the wonderful BlueAmazon has gotten her hands on another copy of this out-of-print book and has been kind enough to revive the bookring! YAY Blue! Click here to follow the book's travels.

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